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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #191 - Dr. Gabor Mate

A renowned speaker and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics including addiction, stress, and childhood development. Dr. Maté has written several bestselling books, including the New York Times bestseller The Myth of Normal, the award-winning In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection, and Scattered Minds: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It, and has coauthored Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. His works have been published internationally in nearly thirty languages.

Facebook and Twitter: drgabormate
Instagram: gabormatemd

Suggested Reading:
Scattered Minds
Hold On To Your Kids
Parenting From The Inside Out
Conscience Parenting
The Parenting Map


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The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture

11:45 - how did Gabor begin studying Trauma?

15:30 - The Science-Practice Gap

18:00 - Therapy and Health Issues

20:15 - race and trauma

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The Melanie Avalon Biohacking Podcast Episode #38 - Connie Zack
The Science Of Sauna: Heat Shock Proteins, Heart Health, Chronic Pain, Detox, Weight Loss, Immunity, Traditional Vs. Infrared, And More!

22:30 - Development Roles in Trauma

25:50 - stress in animals

28:20 - Socioeconomic status and health

31:20 - the myth of the happy childhood

33:45 - diving into melanie's ' childhood

40:40 - the significance of touch

41:15 - the role of reward and praise

46:50 - maternal mitochondria

51:15 - the instinct to have children

54:45 - the dilemma of the modern life

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1:03:40 - the role of relationships

1:06:30 - anger & Boundaries

1:08:30 - being triggered

Dr. Gabor Maté on How to Reframe a Challenging Moment and Feel Empowered | The Tim Ferriss Show

1:12:15 - can we evolve to deal with trauma better

1:13:35 - the use of psychedelics

1:15:35 - gabor's triggers

1:19:30 - the role of trauma and the past; how we experience the present

1:22:00 - letting go of the past


Melanie Avalon: Hi friends. Welcome back to the show. I am so incredibly excited and honored about the conversation that I am about to have. I honestly can't even express how excited I am about this. I am here with a legend. He is literally the reason that we have the phrase needs no introduction, but I will introduce him anyways. I'm here with Dr. Gabor Mate. He is an author, a physician with multiple books, and a go-to expert in the world of addiction and mental health and wellness and childhood development and trauma, which we will get all into today. His newest book, New York Times bestseller, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture. 

Okay, friends, I really recommend that everybody get this book. Like stop what you're doing, get this book right now. First of all, it is beautiful aesthetically, just physically, if you get the actual physical book. But then beyond that, it is so eye opening and that it really speaks to something that I think is so important, which is how to actually view the reality of our culture today and is it “Toxic,” because I feel like that word is thrown around a lot. What does that mean if it's toxic and on top of that, is that normal? 

So, basically, all of these things that happen today, mental and physical illnesses, homelessness, suffering, disconnection, racism, socioeconomic issues, the whole gamut, is that normal? If so, why? If not, why? Why do we normalize it and what is behind all of it which we will talk about, which is likely something called trauma. So, I have so many questions today. Can't wait for this conversation. Gabor, thank you so much for being here. 

So, to start things off, I have so many questions that I could ask you. But I was thinking about it because when I created the show and I have the episode title, I put the hot topics for the episode and I'm sure the word trauma will be near the front of that list. And I feel like a lot of people will see that and a lot of people probably they'll think they have a lot of trauma, they're going to want to listen, they're going to want to learn. I think there are a lot of people that think, “Oh, I don't have trauma.” That's just for people who are traumatized. I'm really curious your experience because you've been talking about this for so long. So, when did you first become interested in the concept of trauma and has it evolved over time? Like, did you originally have a more black and white view of it compared to how you view it today? 

Gabor Mate: Well, as a typical medical doctor trained typically you don't even hear the word trauma. So, that the only trauma we hear about are physical traumas, injuries. The concept that emotional trauma exists and that emotional trauma can have a huge impact on somebody's mental or physical health decades later, is not even breathed about in medical schools, not even today, let alone when I was trained back in the 1970s. So, for me it was a gradual onset of awareness as I worked in family practice, delivering babies, looking after people at all stages of life. Then I worked in palliative care where I had to look after people who are dying of malignancy or chronic illness. 

And then I worked in North America's most concentrated area of drug use, here in Vancouver's downtown Eastside, where we have more people in fewer square block radius than anywhere in North America, injecting, inhaling, ingesting drugs of all kinds, dying of overdoses, of HIV, of abscesses, of suicide, of violence. I began to notice, I couldn't help but notice that at the basis of a lot of the illnesses, whether it's chronic autoimmune disease or mental illness or addiction, is actually childhood trauma.

That also came to the fore in my own personal experience because in my mid 50s, all of a sudden, I'm diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As soon as I saw that diagnosis, it made sense to me. Yeah, this describes my mental functioning very accurately. But I never bought into the idea that this is a genetic inherited brain disease. And I realized that given my own infancy as a Jewish infant in Nazi occupied Hungary, the tuning out the absent mindedness that characterizes attention deficit disorder is not a disease that you're born with, it's actually a normal response to an abnormal environment because a young child is stressed and the parents are stressed, child can't change the situation or leave it, but they cope with it as they tune out, they scatter their attention. So, that scattered attention then, is not a disease, it's actually a coping mechanism rooted in trauma.

So, I wrote my first book called Scattered Minds on ADHD. That's when I began to look at the vast body of scientific literature that links childhood adversity to adult health outcomes. And it astonished me how much science there is published in major medical journals that never enters the consciousness of medical doctors because they don't talk about them in medical school. So, on one hand we have this vast body of science showing the impact of emotional wounding, which is what a trauma is, it's an emotional wound. In fact, the word trauma means a wound. So, on one hand we have this vast body of science showing the links between psychological wounding and physical and mental health or ill health later on. And on the other hand, we have a complete separation of that science from medical practice. 

Melanie Avalon: So, what do you think it would take to bridge that gap? Like is there anything that could be more realistically studied in science to give it more credibility for that relationship? 

Gabor Mate: The problem is not the science. The problem is what's called the science practice gap because insightful physicians, leading physicians for hundreds of years have pointed out the links between, for example, stress and trauma and multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis or breast cancer. In the 20th century, we've had tens of thousands of research papers published on these connections, the mind, body connection, how you can't separate the emotions from the physiology, that it's all one, that the nervous system, the immune system, the hormonal apparatus, and the emotional centers in the brain are one system.

So, when something happens emotionally, of course, it'll have manifestations physiologically. We don't need more science. We need people to wake up to what the science says. This is what's so frustrating, because this stuff gets published in scientific journals, medical journals, and it's like it never happened. For example, there was a study out of Harvard four years ago, just as I began to write The Myth of Normal that women with severe PTSD have doubled the risk of ovarian cancer. You would think that that study alone, if that was the only study ever done, that would send every doctor in North America running to figure out what's the connection here. What's the connection between perturbed emotions, stress reactions, and malignancy. 

But you know what. The average gynecologist probably never even read the study, even though it was published in a major journal from a major university. So, the problem is not more science. The problem is the question, if I could rephrase it, is how do we wake practitioners in the profession up to the science that has already been established? There's a British psychologist, a member of the Royal Academy, Dr. Richard Bentall, who said a couple of years ago that the scientific links between childhood adversity and adult mental illness is as well established as the link between smoking and lung cancer. Yet the average psychiatrist barely even understands the word trauma. And if they do, they do only do also in a very narrow sense, they don't realize that everything they're dealing with is rooted in trauma. 

Melanie Avalon: Have they done studies on people who are actively engaging in modalities like therapy to deal with their trauma and then their correlation to health issues?

Gabor Mate: Well, in that Harvard study on ovarian cancer and PTSD, the milder the symptoms, like if people got some therapy and so the milder the symptoms there were, the less risk there was of ovarian cancer. In my book, The Myth of Normal [unintelligible [00:08:36], I cite lots of studies and lots of personal examples as well of people with multiple sclerosis. Now, let's look at MS for a minute. It's an interesting example. In the 1930s, the gender ratio of multiple sclerosis was one to one. So, for every man diagnosed, there was a woman roughly. You know what the ratio now is? It's three and a half women to every man. What does that tell us? It tells us it can't be genetic because genes don't change in a population over 80 years. It can't be the diet or the climate, because that hasn't changed more for one gender than the other. What is it? 

If you look at the research literature, it shows clearly that the more stress you have and the more trauma you have, the greater the risk of flare ups and onset of multiple sclerosis. I know personal cases of people who understand that, who actually, when they have a flare up, they say, “Oh, how did I stress myself? What can this teach me?” If they allow the disease to teach them, they can actually mitigate the stress and either ameliorate or actually prevent the next flare up. And the same is true in rheumatoid arthritis. By the way, again, we're talking mostly about conditions of women because most autoimmune disease happens to women about 70%, 80%. What I'm saying is that the reason for that is that women are the most stressed segment of the population because they're trained culturally, not just to deal with their own stresses. In fact, they're trained to ignore their own stresses to deal with the stresses of their children and their parents and their spouses. So, they're the shock absorbers of society. No wonder they have more autoimmune disease.

Now, you mentioned racism in your introduction. Race comes into it. So, in Canada, an indigenous person, and this is a very traumatized population, our indigenous population, owing to just 100 years of severe abuse that the children underwent in these state-enforced residential schools, terrible trauma in those communities. Much higher risks of addiction, suicide and so on, and autoimmune disease. So, an indigenous person has three times the rate of rheumatoid arthritis than other people, but an indigenous woman has six times the risk. Why? Because she's indigenous and she's a woman. 

Prior to colonization, they had no rheumatoid arthritis in that population at all. So, the more stressed you are because of gender or race or cultural programming, all of which are, of course, connected, the greater your risk for illness, because you can't separate the mind from the body, and stress and trauma causes inflammation in the body. And that's not even controversial. 

Melanie Avalon: What is the comparison between-- I don't know if it needs to even be in a comparison, but something like racism or awareness of your social status would presumably be something for a human that they would need to be a certain age, maybe, to understand. You talk a lot as well about developmental roles in trauma and the actual birthing experience and early childhood, so those two things. 

The reason I'm thinking about this is because I'm thinking about when I was really little, I was picking out my doll house, dolls, and we went to the store, and apparently I asked for all mixed races [chuckles] for the dolls. And my mom is not racist, but she asked me, I guess she pointed out that they were different colors and I said, “Well, they can all live together,” it didn't mean anything to me. So, I'm wondering clearly at that age there was just no even awareness of race to me. So, how does that come into play as far as childhood development before their awareness of racism and other issues compared to when they have awareness? 

Gabor Mate: It's a deep question. It starts very early. Recent article in The New York Times, I think maybe three weeks ago in the Sunday New York Times that black women and black babies have increased risk of death right at birth just because of being black.

Melanie Avalon: That's crazy. 

Gabor Mate: It's in my book already, but there was another big study that came out showing the same thing. It also showed that if there's a black physician delivering the baby that diminished the risk of the baby dying. 

Melanie Avalon: But not for whites. 

Gabor Mate: Not for whites, no, for blacks. And so, what this means is that the consciousness of racism and being racialized actually creates inflammation in the body. This has been studied and that inflammation then predisposes to ill health. So, in the aftermath of an episode of racism or the more episodes of racism a black woman has to endure, the greater her risk for asthma because the consciousness of being racialized or being judged, rejected or somehow demeaned in anybody, but it happens around race a lot, actually creates inflammation in the body and that inflammation undermines health. It undermines the functioning of genes and the health of chromosomes. 

Black children already have higher blood pressure than white children. Not in Africa, but in the United States. So, it's not genetic. One could go on and I know this is a Jewish kid from Eastern Europe. The experience of racism creates a negative sense of yourself. You kind of take in the other person's view of yourself and that means you have a negative view. You're ashamed of who you are, and you try and protect yourself against that shame, and emotions like shame have a huge impact on your physiology. So, it's very Southern, it's very widespread. It doesn't only affect people of color. But it's not accidental that people of color have much higher rates of autoimmune disease than white people in North America.

Melanie Avalon: Would there be a correlation in animals like zebras, for example because I've heard that zebras, their stripes indicate where they are, like social status wise. I wonder if this translates to animals. 

Gabor Mate: Oh, yeah, it certainly translates to monkeys and to fish and so on, because a defeat or lower status changes your physiology. For example, in human studies as well, there's a famous British studies called the Whitehall Studies. Whitehall is the British Civil Service. The lower the rank you had in the Civil Service, the greater your risk of heart disease regardless of smoking or blood pressure just with the rank. Why? Because you have less control and less self-esteem.

We're talking about white people here with steady incomes and a secure middle-class existence. So, in a society of inequality, there's something called the social gradient. The lower you are on the gradient, the greater your risk for ill health. This is even regardless of income. But of course, income has a lot to do with it as well, because you can afford healthier food and you can afford not to live in neighborhoods where there's pollution and the areas of, I think Chicago where in the summertime the temperature is 10, 20 degrees lower in the better areas with more trees. That has a huge impact on people's health. So, there're so many factors. 

The real point is that individual human health is not a matter of a specific organ being sick. For example, that instance of the American black women and the asthma. Is the asthma, as I ask in the book, a manifestation of pathology in her lungs or is it a social malaise where clearly you can't separate the two, the one creates the other because human beings, you can't separate the minds from their bodies, their emotions from their physiology and their emotions from their social relationships and their social relationships from the culture that they grew up in from in utero onwards.

In other words, health or ill health in individual is a manifestation of a whole set of connections which begins from the moment of conception. And unfortunately, we tend to fault people for their health, we tend to make it an individual problem. It's a matter of connections, it's a matter of interactions, it's a matter of a whole system that we have to look at. 

Melanie Avalon: I have some more questions about that, before that one quick question. This kind of lends a complicated commentary. And again, I know you said it's multifactorial, but you do talk a lot about the role of economics and capitalism, but hearing what you just said and I know you said some of this is independent of finances, but it sounds like it would help the argument where people say money buys happiness. Does money help buy happiness if it can buy you stress relief of socioeconomic problems?

Gabor Mate: Well, of course, if you look at life expectancy, it goes up with income. Whether it buys happiness that's a different question. I've met really miserable billionaires, really miserable stars in the entertainment world. People had really wonderful success out there in the world, but they led very deprived emotional lives. But on the whole, so I don't know if it buys you happiness, but it can certainly buy you health. The better off you are economically, the better off you will be health wise, by and large. 

Melanie Avalon: Do you feel happy? It's just interesting to me because I just identify as happy, like glass half full in general. I'm very fascinated by that, like, why am I like that? 

Gabor Mate: I'm oriented more the other way. So, I'm much happier now and I'm much more grateful now than I used to be, but I was oriented from very early age to have a kind of jaundiced view of the world. Honest to God, for many decades, I'd wake up in the morning not liking the world. As a matter of fact, a few years ago, I participated in an academy and healing event, and I was injected with the ketamine, which is legal now. Not that I care whether it's legal or not, but I'm just saying it is. 

I wrote all kinds of stuff, but in the middle, I don't know where I was going. I don't know where I was. But I screamed out, “I hate the world.” People afterwards, they said, who were in the room, they said they were so glad to hear me say that because it was so honest, it was so raw. But that I hate the world is my programming since infancy. How could I not hate the world as a Jewish infant who barely survived the Nazis, and my mother was unhappy and distressed and in terror, and my father was away in forced labor. 

So, I grew up with a very dark view of the world and that was my baseline. So, I wouldn't call myself innately happy person. On the other hand, all the work that I've done on myself and with others and learning and growing, the more you lay, you're burden down, to quote [unintelligible [00:20:01], the more you let go of the burdens of the past, the more happiness shows up as your natural state. So, I have many more moments of joy and connection now than I used to have. 

Melanie Avalon: So, this is something I definitely really wanted to talk to you about. Like I said, some people might think they don't have trauma, and you have a lot in the book, in The Myth of Normal about the myth of the happy childhood. And so, two things, not to make this all about me, but as to use me as a case study. I was talking with my mom last night on the phone about this interview because I was telling her that when I look back at my childhood, I guess I might have the memory gap that you speak of, because I pretty much remember all happy things. Like, I don't really have any traumatic memories that I remember. I was asking my mom that. 

She's like, “Yeah, I have a pretty happy memory of your childhood too.” That said, my mom had a very traumatic childhood and she always said she made it her goal to make sure that everything that happened to her did not happen to me. I wonder, am I forgetting things? I do know that my birth experience, I was immediately put into the ICU box for weeks and weeks, and my mom couldn't even hold me. Now I don't like people touching me. So, I don't know if that's related. 

Gabor Mate: Well, are you willing to subject yourself to a little experiment here? 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, sure. Yes, please. 

Gabor Mate: Well, let's first define trauma. When people hear the word trauma, they think its terrible things happening to you, like abuse and beating or war or parent dying. Those events are traumatic, but they're not the trauma. The trauma, as I said, means a wound. The trauma is the wound that we experience inside, not what happens to us, but what happens inside of us as a result of what happens to us. Now, naturally, the more severe traumatic the event is like a death of a parent or parents being alcoholics or beating the kids, or sexual abuse, bullying, all this kind of stuff. The more trauma, the more wounding the child will experience. 

But you can also wound sensitive children, not just by the bad things that you do to them, but by the good things that you don't give them, by not meeting their needs. So, there's those two kinds of wounds that I distinguish the capital T, those big events, and then the small t traumas, which is your needs not being met, and that can wound a child. With that in mind, shall we do a little experiment here? 

Melanie Avalon: Sure. Is this the question that you said to ask yourself? 

Gabor Mate: I want to ask you a bunch of questions. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay, I'm ready. I'm so excited. Okay, I'm ready. 

Gabor Mate: But I get to set the rules here. I'm going to interrupt you, probably. So, Melanie, I'm going to ask you to tell me about your happy childhood. Please, go ahead. 

Melanie Avalon: Okay. I was raised with really supportive parents. My mom was really into birthdays because her mom never celebrated her birthday, so she always made a really big deal of our birthdays. I was a very studious child, so I was always praised and applauded for being a good girl and doing well in school. 

Gabor Mate: Good. Thank you. That sounds really good. I'm sure you had lots of happiness. I did notice that the first thing you started talking about was your mother, not about you. I asked you about your happy childhood, not about how your mother was, which tells me little bit that your attention is kind of outward rather than inward. Okay, but let that go for a moment. Your parents didn't fight at all? 

Melanie Avalon: I only remember them fighting once. 

Gabor Mate: How old were you then? 

Melanie Avalon: Probably like seven. 

Gabor Mate: If I was in the house watching that fight, what would I see? What would I hear? 

Melanie Avalon: I was just outside the door of their bedroom and they were screaming. 

Gabor Mate: How did you feel? 

Melanie Avalon: I remember thinking, like, just what is going on? 

Gabor Mate: Do you have children?

Melanie Avalon: No. I would love to talk about that later too. 

Gabor Mate: No. Do you know seven-year-old little girls? Have you met any nieces or friend's kids or anybody? 

Melanie Avalon: Yes. 

Gabor Mate: I want you to imagine any seven-year-old that you know hearing screaming in the parents' bedroom. How does she feel? 

Melanie Avalon: Probably confused. Maybe a little scared. 

Gabor Mate: Little? 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, wait, sorry. This is not me. This is the other scared. 

Gabor Mate: Scared. Okay. All right. Scared, confused. Who did you speak to about how you felt? 

Melanie Avalon: My siblings probably. 

Gabor Mate: You say probably. 

Melanie Avalon: I don't specifically remember speaking to them. 

Gabor Mate: So, probably you didn't speak to anybody because probably you'd remember if you did. 

Melanie Avalon: I remember my sister was next to me. 

Gabor Mate: Well, maybe, but okay, so maybe you talked to-- 

Melanie Avalon: I don't have a distinct memory of. 

Gabor Mate: Okay, now, if you had a seven-year-old child who felt scared, who would you want them to speak to if you were the parent?

Melanie Avalon: Me, like the parent. 

Gabor Mate: If you had a seven-year-old child who you found out had felt really scared about something but didn't talk to you, how would you explain that? 

Melanie Avalon: How would I explain why they didn't talk to me? 

Gabor Mate: Yeah. How would you explain why your child isn't talking to you? 

Melanie Avalon: Because they're scared to talk to me. 

Gabor Mate: What does it feel like for a child to be scared to talk to their parents? 

Melanie Avalon: Scary, isolating, lonely, helpless.

Gabor Mate: There's your happy childhood. No, I'm not saying your parents didn't love you. I'm not saying your mother and your father didn't do their best. I'm talking about what was your experience. We're not talking about your parents or their intentions, which are good, and I'm sure they loved you, but we're talking about your experience in your own body, in your own mind, in your own soul, is isolation. By the way, what's it been like for you to ask for help in your life? 

Melanie Avalon: Well, because I'm thinking of two different types. Thinking of asking for help for health and wellness related stuff, which I'm good at, asking for help, like, I see a therapist, I'm always looking for answers. On the front of productive and work and school, I was always very much like, I can rely on me to get this done. 

Gabor Mate: How important was it for you to be really good at that stuff? 

Melanie Avalon: Very, very important. 

Gabor Mate: How did you feel about yourself if you sometimes didn't succeed? 

Melanie Avalon: I do have an overarching mindset that if I didn't succeed, I just haven't succeeded yet. I try to reframe failure, but I definitely actually, looking back, it's pretty stressful, especially in high school and college. Yes. 

Gabor Mate: Who did you talk to about your stress? 

Melanie Avalon: My mom and friends. 

Gabor Mate: Okay. You say my mom and friends. I mean did you really talk to. 

Melanie Avalon: Probably mostly my mom. 

Gabor Mate: Did you talk to your mom saying that I'm finding this very stressful?

Melanie Avalon: I don't have distinct memories of that. I'm sure I did. 

Gabor Mate: Well, no, you're not sure you did, otherwise--

Melanie Avalon: I know, [unintelligible [00:26:53]

Gabor Mate: Okay. Do you know what I'm saying? Now, look. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I get what you're saying. 

Gabor Mate: Okay, now the child needs to be heard, listened to all their emotions expressed and validated. That's just the need of the child. Your life began in an incubator. I mean, not your life, but your life outside the womb began in an incubator. Is that what you told me? 

Melanie Avalon: Yes. 

Gabor Mate: In those days, maybe they didn't realize that physical touch is really essential for the child's thriving. So, when kids are incubators these days, they get stroked all the time, but in those days they didn't. Now, human touch is an essential need of the child, of any mammal, actually. Look at all animals, monkeys. When a baby elephant is born, you know what happens? 

Melanie Avalon: I think I do, because I think I just read this in a book, but I don't. What happens?

Gabor Mate: The baby elephant plops on the ground. All the mother elephants are standing out in a circle waiting for them and they all stroke the infant with their trunks. They welcome the baby with the touch of the whole community. Now, human infants need to be touched. Your fear of being touched, your reluctance. I've been the same way by the way. Years ago, I was in a group and people started hugging. I just wanted to stand in the corner and glare and nobody dared touch me. That's a defense. 

That early thing that happened affected you. If your mother catered a lot of trauma, I imagine one of the reasons you didn't talk to her was that you may have sensed that she's already burdened, and you didn't want to add to her burden because of the trauma that she's carrying. There're all kinds of ways in which children learn to kind of suppress themselves, but that self-suppression itself is a source of problems.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I was thinking about it two things. Well, on the touch front, so are you still like that? I get a very visceral response, even if a family member or somebody I love hugs me, I tense up. I have to tell myself, like, “This is okay.” Are you still like that? 

Gabor Mate: Much less so than I used to be, but it was like that for a long time. It's a defense. It's basically, I don't want to be vulnerable, I don't want to need this, I've learned that I got to take care of myself, and don't you dare undermine my sense of being separate, because that's how I survived. 

Melanie Avalon: When COVID started, I shouldn't really make a joke about this, but the fact that you couldn't hug people, I was like, “This is great. [laughs] I don’t have to hug people anymore.” 

Gabor Mate: I totally understand that. There's a book by a British anthropologist, Ashley Montagu, called Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. It's all about how, for example, speaking of intensive care nurseries, neonatal ICU, they've shown that kids that are touched, they have better brain development. So, being stroked is really important for healthy development and all animals know this. So, I'm saying that in terms of your childhood, yes, I'm sure your mother did her best, I'm sure you had lots of happy moments, lots of great experiences, but there was some pain underneath there as well that you suppressed. That's all I'm saying.

Melanie Avalon: And what about the role of being rewarded for things and then feeling like you need that to feel like you're enough. Like, for me, I was always praised for being the most studious, the most intelligent, the high achiever. I think now I'm high achieving perfectionist. Is that trauma or is that just getting your happiness from.

Gabor Mate: No, but that's not happiness. If you had a child, would you want them to base their sense of self on how pretty they were or how smart they were or how successful they were, how many accomplishments they had, how fast they were or would you want them to accept themselves just as they are because they are? What would you want for them? Which kind of esteem would you want from them? The esteem that comes from the outside or the esteem that says I'm worthwhile not because I can do this, that, or the other, but I'm worthwhile whether or not I can do this, that, or the other. Which way would you want them to have? 

Melanie Avalon: So, definitely the latter of the situations. Like, should you praise a child? 

Gabor Mate: Well, so look, here's the thing. That external evaluation is totally addictive because there's a hole inside that says I'm only enough if I get that external evaluation. So, the more I get the more I want. In the book, I talk about my workaholism as a doctor. Why was I a workaholic, because the message I got as an infant is that the world didn't want me. Now, if the world doesn't want me, I better earn, I better justify my existence. So, then I become a doctor. There're all kinds of good reasons to be a doctor, but one of them in my case was I had to prove the value of my existence. But since I didn't believe in my own inner value, I had to keep proving it to myself. So, the more you get, the more addictive it gets. It's like a drug. 

And then what message do my kids get because their daddy is always working, not available to them. They get the message that they're not good enough the way they are because they're not that important because daddy's got better things to do. We pass this on unwittingly from one generation to the next. 

Now, in terms of praise, as I quote a parenting expert or education expert, actually, it says, yeah, praise motivates a child to get more praise. Do I want my child to engage in an activity because they're going to get praise for it or do I want them to engage in an activity because they love it, because it's meaningful to them, because they're expressing themselves through that activity. Obviously, the latter. Then I better not praise them too much. Otherwise, they just get hooked on on the praise, and then rather than following their own inner guidance, they become dependent on what other people say about them. 

If a child gets a good mark, you say, “Oh, you must have worked really hard. Good for you.” You don't make it about the achievement, you make it about the effort. If a child, you don't praise them for how pretty they are, because it gives a message that certain kind of looks are acceptable and other looks are not acceptable. Look at the culture or beauty in this society and just how exploitative it is and how much suffering it creates. Look at somebody like Pamela Anderson, who just wrote her book on her life, and she's one of these women considered to be very beautiful and desirable. Look how much she suffered for that.

Not to mention all the people that can't live up to those society determined standards and how much suffering they undergo. So, people are desperate to make themselves attractive. All the Botox and all the cosmetic surgery and all the desperation to look good to others, which affects all genders, but particularly it's laid on women. Look at all the suffering and stress it creates. So, you want your kids growing up like that, don't praise them for how they look. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I just had a major epiphany. My dad would always-- whenever we would go out or anything, he would always say, “You look nice.” Like, that's the first thing he would say. If he ever didn't say it, which was rare, but if he didn't, I would be like, “I don't look good.” Even I had one relationship a few years ago, it was like two years, he would also say that I looked nice at the beginning of every day. There was one date where he didn't. And that entire date I was like, “I must look terrible.” 

Gabor Mate: Then in society, I quote a Catholic monk, Thomas Merton, who said that, “What a strange existence it is to be always living in the minds of other people.” One of the toxicities of this culture is that we all live according to these evaluations of others rather than coming for our own authentic self. That loss of authenticity in order to please or impress others is a major source of suffering. 

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I love that part of your book where you talk about the struggle between authenticity and attachment and how those can be at odds with each other. What do you think is the role that we inherit our mitochondria from our mother specifically? But you do talk in the book, though, how stress can be passed down through the paternal sperm and how paternal depression in the father, even if the mother doesn't have that, can affect the child. I'm just wondering the passing down of the stress. Okay, so two-part questions. The passing down of the stress, how significant is that? Two, how long does it take to-- could you just write that in one generation or does it take generations?

Gabor Mate: Well, let me begin with how it's passed on first. Let me ask you a question. You said your mother had a lot of trauma as a child, is that right? 

Melanie Avalon: Mm-hmm, yes. 

Gabor Mate: What was your moods like when you were small? 

Melanie Avalon: So, my sister is studying to be a psychologist, so she's been having a lot of epiphanies about things as well. We realized-- So growing up, my mom-- she would often be very stressed, and when she was stressed, we would just like not talk to her. But then when she wasn't stressed, she was very happy and very loving. 

Gabor Mate: I got it. But it was confusing, wasn't it? 

Melanie Avalon: Yes. And that's what my sister said. She was like, that must have been really confusing for us growing up. 

Gabor Mate: As a parent, sometimes I was depressed and sometimes very joyful and jovial, very confusing for my kids. The point is, when a parent is distressed or stressed, the child automatically picks up on that energetically and they make it their own fault because the children are narcissists by nature, by which I don't mean the pejorative or pathological sense, I just mean in the pure meaning of the word. They think it's all about them. So, if the parent is depressed, something wrong with me, I better work hard to make sure that she's not, which is a reversal of roles. So, we can pass on our stresses to other children, not by doing anything back to them, but just by not having dealt with our own stress. Then the child picks up on it. 

Stress can be passed on two ways. I think the major way that stress is passed on is that the unresolved trauma or stress imprints of the parents get automatically passed on to the child whether or not the parents wish that. Of course, the parents don't wish it at all, but they can't help it. That certainly happened between my wife and I and our children. Now, the other pathways that this can be passed on is through physiologically. So, for example, stress or trauma can change not the genes, not the genetic structure of our DNA, but the way the DNA functions. And that's what epigenetics is. Now, the precise role and dimensions of epigenetic influences is still very much under investigation.

It's a very new field. To me, it's an interesting investigation and I do write about it in the book, but for me, I don't need it. I can find enough stuff happening in a person's life that results from the previous generations not yet having healed their own trauma that gets passed on unwittingly from one generation to the next, even without recourse to epigenetics. So, I would say the majority of it happens because unresolved trauma automatically gets transmitted. 

Now, can it be healed in one generation? Yes, if the parents can do the work before they have kids. Of course, very often that doesn't happen. We're very young when we have kids, most of us, when we still got all our stuff and we haven't figured it out yet and actually having children is a good way to get confronted with your own trauma because they're going to trigger you. Now, as long as parents start working on themselves and as soon as they realize that there's some trauma there, the more they can protect their kids. It doesn't have to be 100%. Nobody has to be perfect, nobody is perfect, but the more conscious parents can become. 

So, if I can just make some recommendations here, my books on ADHD, Scattered Minds is all about child development. Another book I wrote called Hold on to Your Kids. I wrote that with a psychologist friend of mine about the importance of the attachment of relationship. A book by Daniel Siegel, a psychiatrist, called Parenting From the Inside Out, about working with your own issues while you're having a child. Shefali Tsabary's The Conscious Parent or her most recent, The Parenting Map. These are all books that will help you get consciousness as you raise children. The earlier you get conscious as you raise children, the more you're protecting them. 

Melanie Avalon: I'll put links to all of those in the show notes. What about the initial instinct for childbearing because you do talk in the book about how it is natural and how we get evolutionarily rewards from having children, raising children. I personally don't perceive having a desire to have children. Did I cognitively decide that? but deep down, I really do want children. 

Gabor Mate: Okay, since you're asking me, you want my honest opinion.

Melanie Avalon: Yes. 

Gabor Mate: First of all, don't make yourself wrong. Neither do or you don't. So, if you don't, you don’t. I would never talk you out of it or into it. But I'll tell you what I think. It's not that we should want to have children. It's sort of nature wants itself. I mean, all nature, whether it's plant or animal, wants to reproduce. When I say wants to, it's not even conscious. A tree doesn't want to reproduce. It just does. Really, that's why, Hollywood movies aside, the reason we have a sex drive is to support reproduction. So, when that's not there, there're two things that come up for me as potentials. 

One is, and I don't know your personal life at all. So, I'm theorizing and it's totally generalized. It may not apply to you at all, okay. But one is maybe you have not met the person with whom you feel safe enough to take on that task. That's a possibility. If you haven't met that person, there might be reasons why you haven't. Which leads me to my more basic point, is that I think some people who don't want children, they don't want to repeat their own childhoods unconsciously, they don’t want to recreate the pain. So, that may be going on for you as well. Again, Melanie, I can't tell you if either of these dynamics are true, I can only give you a general impression. How does that land for you? 

Melanie Avalon: So, the former one about meeting the person, that's a question I'm haunted by because a lot of my friends will say that they felt that way, and then they met their person and then they changed. I'm like that's not happening to me. But who knows, never say never. The second part is actually really interesting. The primary reason I don't think I do it's because I don't even like saying it because it feels so selfish. It sounds like a lot energetically and stress wise. If I were to have a child, I would want to be the perfect parent, and my whole life would become that, and that's what my life would become, which would be great. I don't think I'd be able to do all of my career life goals and everything like that. And I am haunted by like, what if they turn out to be a not nice person.

Gabor Mate: Well, well, well, you know what you wouldn't be able to pursue your career goals, not for the first three years. If you listen to me or not just mothers, but fathers, if I could live my life over again, forget my medical practice, not that I wouldn't be a doctor, but I wouldn't be a workaholic doctor. My priority would be to work less than to be at home more with my kids, because that's when they need you the most, that's when their brains develop, that's when their personalities develop, that's when they need to have this unconditional loving acceptance. In modern society, we're handicapped because human beings were never meant to parent on their own or even as a couple. We were meant to parent in groups. That's how we evolved for millions of years. Parents today are in this dilemma of if I have a kid, it interrupts everything. 

In a hunter-gatherer tribe having a kid didn't interrupt anything. Life just went on, and everybody supported your parenting. So, part of what you're describing is the dilemma of modern life, particularly the dilemma of modern professional women. So that's genuine, but you're quite right. And if you felt safe enough with somebody who was really a partner to you, where you could discuss this and you'd make a decision that not just you the mother, but you as a couple would design your life so that you can really serve your children's needs in those all essential early first few years, you might feel differently about it. You'd feel partnered and supported and yeah, no big deal to put your career on hold for three years. I'm not trying to tell you what to do. I'm just saying that it all depends on circumstances. You're quite right. If you're going to be a parent for the first few years that needs to be your main task from the child's point of view.

Melanie Avalon: I've had many men tell me, like, “Well, you can have like nannies and all this.” I'm like, “That's not, that’s no. That's not the answer."

Gabor Mate: That's not the answer. That's not the real answer. The real answer is, can I and my partner create a life where our first priority in the early years is our children's well-being and our relationship with them? That's the real question. I think it's possible, but it needs to be very conscious and very deliberate. And because of the stresses on parents in this society and because of the demands, especially on women in society, you know that in the United States, 25% of women have to go back to work within two weeks of giving birth for economic reasons. Well, it's toxic. Children are being abandoned in the actual sense because their children need to be with that mother for many, many, many, many months in the point of view of development.

So, when you look at the rate of children being diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety and depression, the rising rate of childhood suicide, the New York Times and The New Yorker both had articles in the last six months about the inexplicable rise of childhood suicide. It's not explicable in this society. Parents are too stressed and parents have to pay attention to so many things outside their children's needs that children are feeling abandoned whether their parents want to or not. Unconsciously, despite the loving, best intentions of the parents. So, kids are more and more stressed. Of course, they're more anxious, of course their attention is more scattered, of course they're more oppositional, of course they're more depressed and it's not the parents' fault. It's the toxicity of this culture. 

Melanie Avalon: It's too bad, we couldn't have a system where well, I'm just saying this right now, but there might be more complexities to it, but where the role of the mom as a mother raising the child is seen as a career, so it's like, funded. 

Gabor Mate: Well, absolutely. Well, in some countries there's even paternity leave that fathers get leave to stay home with their kids. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, wow. Really? 

Gabor Mate: Yeah. When you actually think of cost, economic value, they're saving money. They're saving money because what we're doing now creates so much learning problems, behavior problems, drug addiction problems, and so on and so forth. It's costing us heavy not to pay attention to those early years. None of this is controversial. At Harvard, there's a center called the Center on the Developing Child and everyone will look at all this information. Just check out their literature. I mean, every year, every month, they published yet another study, yet another article on child development, on the importance of emotionally healthy and nonstress relationship for the proper brain development of the child. It's called the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. They published dozens of beautiful papers on this. Trouble is the policymakers don't pay attention to them. Well, this is going to be a very jolly discussion here. 

Melanie Avalon: Quick question. Speaking of relationships, you talk in the book about the role of relationships on health and wellness and mortality. It was fascinating. You said that unhappy married people have better mortality rates than happy unmarried people. 

Gabor Mate: No, no. What did I say? I think I said that married people in general have better health than unmarried people, but unhappy married people don't. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, did I get that wrong? 

Gabor Mate: I think so. You know what, I quoted so many studies in this book that—


Melanie Avalon: Oh, here it is. Unhappily married people are worse off. Well, that's a key difference in well-being than unmarried. Okay. Oh, I like that. [laughs] I like that better. That's a much better stat for me. 

Gabor Mate: Married people in general have better health indicators, but unmarried people have better indicators than unhappy married people, which makes sense because our emotions are not separable from our physiology. Of course, you'd expect that. There's an interesting study, I quote later on in the book. They looked at 2000 women over a 10-year period. Those women who are unhappily married, in a conflictual marriage but suppressed their emotions over a 10-year period were four times as likely to die as those women who are also in conflict relationship, but they did express their feelings. The issue wasn't just is there a conflict? The issue was do I suppress myself or express myself? 

Melanie Avalon: Okay, I'm so excited that we're talking about this because I loved this part of the book, the role of suppressing or oppressing your emotions and not expressing them and how that related to health effects. You talk about how a lot of these, well, there're so many things here. One of the things is a lot of these traits-- We often view these traits like people pleasers, or they're so nice, or you talk about how you read obituaries and they're often talking about how the people were doing everything for everybody or then they end up dying of these illnesses. So, I'm fascinated by this. 

I think of my grandmother, who actually she's German and she grew up in World War II in Germany and had a lot of trauma with the German soldiers and things like that. She was so nice. My mom would always say, isn't it so incredible how she went through so much terrible trauma, all of this awful stuff, but she's just so happy and so nice. But then she died of cancer and I often wonder about the connection there.

Gabor Mate: Well, the connection is very simple. Niceness can have two sources. One is authentic, the other is not. The authentic source of being nice is just you love people and you have compassion and you care about people. We all want to be like that. Nothing wrong with that. But if we do that at the expense of ignoring our own needs and our own emotions then it becomes pathological niceness. And so, if you look at people, for example, with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, studies have been done of neurologists and they all say our patients are so much nicer than the average. What they don't see is that's what's actually contributing to the disease because that niceness comes not just from the quote of Shakespeare, "The milk of human kindness flowing through us." It also comes from suppressing our healthy boundaries and our healthy anger. So, we don't know how to say no. We accept other people's expectations and demands and needs and we take them on and we suppress our own needs and we suppress our emotions. So, a lot these of people that are really nice are actually repressing their healthy anger because they had to learn how to do that in childhood, not because it's part of their personality, that repression of healthy anger because as I said earlier, the immune system is not separate from the emotional system. When we repress our healthy anger, we're actually repressing our immune system which is then not as able to fight back against malignancy. So, it's very typical to notice of people with malignancy or chronic autoimmune disease how nice they are.

Melanie Avalon: Yeah, I loved the section on the healing and the different A’s, but especially the anger because that's something that I was raised really well, really religious, so I have a lot of guilt about a lot of stuff. But on the anger front, for a long time I really viewed anger as a, “Bad emotion,” like something I shouldn't feel. That's something I've worked a lot on in therapy is feeling my anger and reframing it. I was telling my therapist about because she always says that anger is a boundary being crossed and you talk about that in your book. We were discussing that and I like how you said it's just like a firm and concise no, like saying no. 

Gabor Mate: If I intruded on your space either physically or emotionally and I wouldn't budge, you better get angry with me. You better say no, stay out because what happens if you don't. So that's just healthy anger. It's just a boundary defense. That's all it is. Now, there's unhealthy anger, there's healthy anger, then there's the repression of anger. Repressing anger is unhealthy for you. Unhealthy anger, which is not a boundary defense but it's a triggering of old emotions that you've suppressed for a long time. That's not healthy either. 

You're raging and the more rageful you get that's not so healthy either. It's not good for your blood pressure, your heart and so on. But healthy anger, which says, “You're in my space, get out.” That's essential for any animal, isn't it? and for human beings. Again, if you look at from the point of view of gender, which gender in our culture is most programmed or propagandized into not having healthy anger. That's why women have all this autoimmune disease, because the role of healthy anger is a boundary defense is to keep out what's not healthy. What's the role of the immune system? 

Melanie Avalon: Hey, oh, look at there. [laughs] 

Gabor Mate: Same thing. It's the same thing. Since they are a part and parcel of the same system. When you're repressing one, you're disabling the other as well. 

Melanie Avalon: You had a really interesting section talking about autoimmune diseases and the similar characteristics between that and the patriarchal system, really fascinating. How does it compare, because today I feel like everybody is offended by everything all the time. So, one of the biggest epiphanies I've said that word a lot in this episode, [chuckles] one of the biggest epiphanies I've had in the past few years was learning about how the feeling of being offended. This is just my thoughts on it, but the feeling of being offended is something like there's something in me that I am triggered by or that I'm scared of. It's not the other person. There's something in me and I just feel like today's culture, everybody's offended by everything. And so that can look like anger. So, what's the difference there?

Gabor Mate: Well, yeah. So, trigger is an interesting word. It's a metaphor. So, when you look at a weapon, how big a part of the weapon is the trigger. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, it's small, yeah. 

Gabor Mate: For the trigger to work, there has to be ammunition and explosive charge and the whole mechanism to deliver that ammunition. I'm the one who's being triggered, therefore I'm the weapon with the emotional explosive charge. I could spend my whole time raging at you for providing me with a trigger, or I could look at what's the emotional charge in myself. There's such a thing as healthy anger. Again, if I were to invade your space, you should get angry. You should say get out. That's what you should do to protect yourself. But most of the time that people are talking about being triggered, they're putting responsibility on the other person for their own emotional reactions. It's much more interesting to look at our own emotional reactions.

Even if somebody calls you something terrible, it's still my reaction. If I see that this person is just crazy or misguided, why would I be triggered? I'm triggered only if I take it personally. So, there are some things that don't trigger me. I'm talking about me personally. If you call me stupid, that will never trigger me. You know why? Because I'm fully aware of how bright I am. I'm very confident about it. But I got triggered recently when people said things about me that weren't true. This is over my interview with Prince Harry and its aftermath. And why do they get triggered? Because they didn't see me and not being seen is a trigger for me. Why? Because I don't get fully seeing myself. So, when I get triggered, it's an interesting exercise. 

Once I calm down, I can't do it in the middle of the upset. I can just take some deep breaths, maybe if I'm lucky. But afterwards, what was the explosive charge inside me? That's why I suggest in the book, when you get triggered, that's a great opportunity to learn about yourself. I'm sure there're things that people can say to you that will never trigger you, that might trigger somebody else. I'm sure that people-- things can say to you that will trigger you, that will not trigger somebody else. In other words, it's not about the trigger. It's about the explosive charge that we carry inside ourselves. That could be a really useful learning experience if we choose to accept that.

Melanie Avalon: I actually look forward to it now, if I get triggered or if I have that response, once you reframe, you realize that you have that visceral reaction that it is you and that there's something there. It's kind of fun, eye opening. 

Gabor Mate: Speaking of reframing, when I was interviewed by Tim Ferriss a few years ago, we did this reframing exercise. And you can watch it on YouTube. Just put in reframing Gabor and Tim or something like that. You'll see us doing this exercise on YouTube about how to reframe a challenging moment. 

Melanie Avalon: I will put a link to it. I have sort of an interesting question. So, speaking about learning, so it sounds like this trauma aspect is very detrimental to our physical and mental health. I think we've made that very clear throughout this episode. If our bodies are set up like they want to live, they want to support health, even if it's purely to have children and carry on the line. Do you think our bodies will ever evolve to deal with this or do you think it will just get worse? 

Gabor Mate: Our bodies have already evolved to deal with it. Our problem is that we're disconnected from our bodies. So, a lot of trauma therapy is actually reconnecting with your body. The method that I developed compassionate inquiry or Peter Levine Somatic Experiencing or Rick Schwartz' Internal Family Systems therapy or Pat Ogden’s Sensorimotor Psychotherapy or Janina Fisher, Bessel van der Kolk, the book is called The Body Keeps the Score. I've written a book called When the Body Says No, so that our bodies are evolved to deal with all this. The problem is we get disconnected from our bodies and trauma confuses us. So, the whole idea of healing is to get back to the body and to learn to listen to it. It knows how to take care of us, but we have to listen. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, one thing I love that you talked about in your book and I have not done psychedelics or ayahuasca or anything like that, but you talk about that. How recent was that ayahuasca experience that you had? 

Gabor Mate: I discovered ayahuasca, I didn't discover ayahuasca. [chuckles] I found out about ayahuasca, I didn't discover it people it's been around for hundreds of years. I found out about it after I wrote my book on addiction, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, where I point out that addiction is not an inherited disease, it's an attempt to escape from the pain of trauma in every case. When I was touring with that book, people that kept asking me, what do about healing addiction with ayahuasca? And I say nothing. I go to a different town and somebody else would raise their hands, what do you know about ayahuasca and addiction? I say nothing. If I got really impatient with the question, leave me alone already. I've just spent three years writing a book about everything I know, and now you're asking me about the one thing I don't know anything about. But then somebody said, did you know you could experience it yourself here in Vancouver, actually, where I live, Vancouver, Canada.

Peruvian shaman was coming up here leading a ceremony and I did. That was 13 years ago. I got it in half an hour because it just opened me up in such a way that I understood so much about myself. No, not that that fixed everything, but I certainly had the insight, I certainly had the awareness. So, then I began to work with ayahuasca and addiction leading retreats. Not that I'm not a shaman, I don't give up the medicine, but I would help people set their intentions, deal with their traumas, understand their traumas. After the ceremony, interpret their experience, the visions that they had, the insights that they gained. So, I had quite a close relationship with the plant. The experience that's describing the book happened three and a half years ago now, just before I wrote the book, where I went for my own healing to the Amazon jungle to work with some Peruvian indigenous maestros and maestras, as you'll see from that chapter, it was quite the experience. 

Melanie Avalon: Did you have your own triggers with that experience because you went there to lead it and then they basically told you that they said you had, like, a darkness around you.

Gabor Mate: They said you're too screwed up to lead this thing. You're fired. They were right because I went there very stressed after a long speaking trip, didn't pay attention to my own needs. Somebody else took over the leadership of the retreat. Richard Condon, his name is. Thank God for Richard being there. And the shamans worked with me. One of them worked with me just by myself, while the others worked with the whole group. And so, what did I learn? 

First of all, the importance of taking care of myself that I'm not superman. Secondly, what emerged through those five ceremonies over 10 days is that I don't have to let the past define my present or my future. What happened to me as an infant never will not have happened that my grandparents will not have died at Auschwitz, but that doesn't have to define how I feel about the present or about the world or the future. That's the biggest lesson I got. Now do you think I always remember it? Of course not, but I got it. 

Melanie Avalon: No, that's really powerful and actually goes to a big question I have, which we talked all throughout this and you talk all throughout your book about the role of trauma in the past and how it's informing the way we are experiencing the present now. But you do also say at one point, or I'll just ask it as a question. Do we have to reevaluate our past to heal today, or can we just heal in the present? Does everybody need to go reanalyze their childhood and do all of that or can they just heal without that perspective? 

Gabor Mate: In my view, any proper therapy will take into account the childhood experience that shaped us. But we don't focus on the past because there's nothing you can do about the past. That's why I say that trauma is not what happened to us, it's what happened inside us as a result of what happened to us. So, trauma is the wound that we're carrying. Trauma is not that your mother was depressed at times. The trauma is what you made that mean, which is that now I can't express myself, for example, in order to protect her. Now, if you're still doing that in your life that's what needs to be fixed, not what happened back then, which can't be fixed. It already happened. So, it is useful to understand how these patterns originated in our lives. These survival tactics actually is what they were. It's not important to dwell in the past, in fact it's not even helpful. It's what am I carrying in the moment from the past that's interfering with my capacity to live a full, rich, authentic life. It's in the present. It's in the present, it's in my mind, it's in my body. 

Melanie Avalon: Well, something good to end with my favorite quote from your book. It's actually a quote of a quote and then it's your commentary on the quote. But I'll read it and this literally was so helpful for me. So, thank you, because I really struggle with the concept of forgiveness, not because I'm not down with it. I'm very much excited about forgiveness, and intellectually I can understand it and cognitively, I can say, yes. “Yes, I understand their perspective, and yes, I want to forgive,” but then actually feeling it can be hard. So, the reframe you provided.

The first part is a quote of a quote, and you say, “To forgive is to grieve for what happened, for what didn't happen, and to give up the need for a different past, to accept life as it was and as it is.” And then your commentary on that is you say, “We could say that she came to choose her past not in the sense of liking or condoning it, but by simply letting it be.” That is just so powerful for me. I've been sharing it with my audience, and a lot of people were saying how they never thought about it that way before. So, I just really love what that encapsulates as far as just letting go of this need to hold on.

Gabor Mate: Keep litigating the past. Yeah, is that quote from Edith Eger? 

Melanie Avalon: It's a woman. 

Gabor Mate: It's probably Edith. 

Melanie Avalon: It was a woman talking about Hitler. 

Gabor Mate: Yeah. She's a very interesting lady. She is a Hungarian Jew like myself. She was born in the same city that my mother was born in and my grandparents lived in. She was deported to Auschwitz when she was 16 years old, probably on the same train or within a day or so of my grandparents, along with her family. She survived at age 16. Her family, her parents didn't, my grandparents didn't. And then she's the one. Then she comes to the United States and becomes a psychotherapist and a great grandmother and all this. She is in her 90s now, she's still working. At some point, she went back to Germany to the Bavarian Alps where Hitler's residence was to forgive him. 

Forgiveness doesn't mean that it's okay what you did, but that I'm not going to hold on to the rage. I'm not going to keep you in a cage in my heart because I'm keeping myself in a cage. I'm going to let go of you so I can have a free life that I worked so hard to attain. So, forgiveness is not about making it okay about what happened, but forgiveness is not holding on to the resentment of the past. When I told you earlier in this podcast that I used to wake up resenting the world, that's what I was doing. But who was I keeping constrained? Only myself. 

Melanie Avalon: So powerful. So, the last question I ask every single guest on this show and it's just because I realize more and more each day how important mindset is. It's perfect for all of this topic. What is something that you're grateful for?

Gabor Mate: My marriage relationship of 53 years now. It's been the ground of my growth and my joy and my teaching and just the deepest love that I've experienced. I'm also grateful for my life at this point. I'm grateful no matter what happened for all that I've learned, for all that I've been able to grow from, for all that I've been able to teach. Gratitude is more and more my state these days, except when I'm triggered by stupid press reports. Gratitude is more and more my portion these days than it ever used to be, so I'm grateful to be able to experience gratitude. 

Melanie Avalon: I love that. Yeah, the press can be rough, so more chances to deal with our triggers. But thank you so much, Gabor. This has been so incredible. I can never thank you enough for your work and, as well everybody else in the world could say the same thing. I also love, by the way, that you co-wrote the book with your son and that he narrated it on Audible, which was super nice and personal. 

Gabor Mate: My son and I are writing a new book together. It's called Hello Again. A fresh start for adult children and their parents. That's based on a workshop that we do and expect to get it published maybe late next year, I think. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, well, if you'd like to come back for that one. 

Gabor Mate: I'd be more than delighted to. Thank you so much for having me. 

Melanie Avalon: Oh, thank you again. I just cannot thank you enough. So, I will look forward to that. Thank you for all that you do. I hope you get happier and happier every day and this was amazing. So, thank you. 

Gabor Mate: Thank you very much. Bye, bye.

Melanie Avalon: Bye.

[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]

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